Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Agnostic Clerics

Faith and Doubt
In a supernatural environment, parsimony insists that gods exist. But that doesn’t mean that your god exists, or that it likes you, or is listening to your entreaties.

So, let’s keep the efficacy of prayer mostly secret.

Only do this if it’s fun, obviously. Do you and your players like the idea of praying for water, and then looting the body of a dead ogre to find a full waterskin, and not knowing if it’s coincidence or not?

Here’s what your player should tell you about their religion:

  • God/Pantheon’s Name:
  • Domain of Influence:
  • Cleric's Sacred Duties:
  • Cleric's Forbidden Acts:
  • Weapons allowed to Clerics:
  • Opposing Force/The Enemy:

They can make up lots more, but that’s what’s essential.

Secret Spells
The GM instructs the player that they can pray for miracles, and the god might respond. Requesting too much can anger/bore the god. And the Enemy is listening, and will tempt you into damnation if you pray for the wrong thing.

That's all they know.

The GM makes up a clerical spell list. Maybe it’s exactly the standard list, but maybe you add a surprise or two. About six spells at first? Include two additional spells that are counter to the god’s desires, which would be granted by the Opposing Force. Don’t show this to the player.

Don’t worry too much about this list—treat it as a guide for judging the appropriate level of divine intervention.

Let the player pray for anything they wish. They do not need to frame it in standard spell terms. A general prayer ("Deliver us from danger!") can be interpreted lots of ways by the GM, for good or ill. A very specific prayer ("Grant your servant a pony, O Lord.") runs the risk of not being something the god will grant.

If it’s in line with the god’s desires, and has any sort of analogue on the spell list, then a miracle (or at least a convenient coincidence) may occur.

Wearing out the Almighties
Use ammo dice for prayer. Roll it when they pray. On a result of one or less, they have used their portion of divine goodwill for the day. This and all other prayers for the rest of the day will not be granted.
1st Level: 1d4-3.
2nd Level: 1d4-1.
3rd Level: 1d4.
4th Level: 1d4.
5th Level: 1d6.
6th Level: 1d6.
8th Level: 1d8.
9th Level: 1d8.
10th Level: 1d10.
11th Level: 1d10.
12th and all subsequent levels: 1d12.

When the ammo die is exhausted, don’t let the player know. Just let them wait and see if their prayers have been answered. Feed them ambiguous information.

Falling from Grace
If the prayer is best answered by the Opposing Force’s spells, make a tally mark under “Heresy” for that character. If, over the course of an adventure, the character’s Heresies exceed their Level, then they are damned in their god’s sight and now belong to the Enemy. Make up a new list of spells. Use reversed versions of the original spell list when you can. Reversed spells may be cast unwittingly when the cleric tries to invoke the original effect. Other spells can only be cast when the cleric goes against the original god’s wishes—partaking in a forbidden act, refusing a sacred duty, etc.

A character may continue in their faith for a long time without knowing that they have fallen from grace. They may never realize, and decide that the weird results of their prayers are part of the god’s ineffable plan. This is how heretical sects get started.

If a character does realize they have fallen, they can seek redemption, but it should be a big quest-type deal.

Results of Prayer
A lot of the lower level Cleric spells are invisible, and provide such minor effects that you might not be able to discern their presence. A priest lays hands on you and says a blessing, and you feel better, but did you really gain a +1 to save vs. poison?

When prayers are granted, whenever convenient, make the results invisible. The player should not always know when a prayer was answered or not, or exactly how. Results might not show up right away.

Cure Light Wounds: This one seems like a pain to keep secret (extra bookkeeping, and no player is going to enjoy not knowing their HP), so just let them have it. There’s still plenty of uncertainty if they fall from grace, and this reverses into Cause Light Wounds. Also, I tend to allow all sorts of things to provide some HP recovery, including morale boosts, like rousing speeches or battle hymns. So I’d give back 1 HP just for placebo effect, if both healer and healed are sincere about the effort.

Detect Evil/Magic/etc.: Provide false positives even when the prayer is not granted.

Light: You could just make this an obvious miracle, or you could have light show up in some possibly natural way. A shaft of light makes its way through a chink in the rocks, a patch of luminescent fungus begins to bloom, someone finds another flask of oil in the backpack, an exhausted torch sputters back to life. Or a bunch of hobgoblins with lanterns and pitchforks show up.

Protection from Evil/Purify Food and Water/Remove Fear/Resist Cold: All spells where you can tell the players affected, “You feel like that might have worked.” Keep any bonuses awarded (or not) to yourself. Now’s when you’ll see how much faith both the players and the characters have in the gods.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Scaffolds & Dragons: Trainers

Some trainers to go with my Training Levels for the Kid's Game.

I'm thinking that you need to make arrangements with a trainer every level for Levels 1-4, and every other from 5-9, and you're pretty much self-educated from there.

Durgan the Bear
Actually a bear. An adventurer that has retired to the woods outside of town. Will happily spar with anyone who shows up at his cave bearing good food.
+1 to hit and damage in melee
+1d6 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Disease
At Fighting Level 1: wear Medium Armor w/o penalty
At Fighting Level 3: wear Heavy Armor w/o penalty

Fletch the Onocentaur Archer
This rough half-man half-donkey has terrible manners and little interest in taking on students, but is the best archer you've ever seen.
+1 to hit and damage with ranged attacks
+1d6 Hit Points
+1 to Save vs. Paralysis
Hawkeye: +1 to checks relating to seeing things that are far away
Does not count as Fighting Level for purposes of wearing armor

Aldus the Tailor
A capable tailor, but a much more capable thief. Among other stealthy skills, Aldus teaches his students how to pick locks with an innocent-looking set of sewing needles.
+1 DEX
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Area Attacks
+1 to repair clothes

Cynesiga the Syncophant
A faun who knows how to get on everyone’s good side. Folks knows she’s a brown-noser, but she’s so danged likable it’s hard to hold it against her.
+1 CHA
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Charm/Mind Control

Maximer the Munificent
A shrewd merchant who will teach you how to haggle well in any situation.
+1 CHA
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Charm/Mind Control

Deathswift Xerxeseo
A famous sword fighter who is actually pretty lousy with a sword. But he is such a dashing and flamboyant performer that he can usually intimidate his opponents into giving up.
+1 CHA
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Charm/Mind Control

Note: Cynesige, Maximer, and Xerxeseo provide the same mechanical benefits, but result in very different role play when a given character makes a CHA roll.

Maudi the Wolf
A human raised by wolves. If you can prove yourself to her, she will teach you their ways.
+1d4 Hit Points
Wolf Companion
+1 Save vs. Cold
+1 Reaction Rolls from wolves
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 CON
+1 Save vs. Poison
+1 Reaction Rolls from wolves

Gieln the Dryad
This gregarious willow-tree spirit is much more willing to socialize than most of her kind.
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Spells
One chosen spell or two random spells. Spell-fluff should be nature/plant themed.

Bishop Ancellus
Hard-nosed and salt-crusted prophet of the storming seas. Will only take students who dedicate themselves to the Sea God.
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Spells
One chosen spell or two random spells. Spell-fluff should be water-themed.
+1d6 Hit Points
Turn Undead
+1 Save vs. Death Magic
Ability to hold breath for as many minutes as CON.

This famous griffin is covered in scars and missing a few limbs, but is friendly and eager to receive visitors at his remote mountain-top home. Unless you're a goblin. He's had bad experiences with goblins.
+1d4 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Spells
One chosen spell or two random spells. Standard arcane-wizardry type stuff.

Chieftan of the local lizardfolk tribe. A well-rounded fighter, willing to train non-lizardfolk who live with and help the tribe.
+1 to hit in melee and ranged attacks
+1d6 Hit Points
+1 Save vs. Paralysis
At Fighting Level 1: wear Medium Armor w/o penalty
At Fighting Level 3: wear Heavy Armor w/o penalty

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bug Collectors In the Necropolis

An additional ecosystem for +Arnold K.'s Bug Collector class. Levels 1-3 roll 1d10. Levels 4-5 roll 1d12. Levels 6-8 roll 1d14. Higher levels, you need to make something up, I guess.

Ain't no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Collect the first ten and earn your Necropolis Bug Badge! +2 Save vs. Disease.
Collect all 14 for the Necropolis Master Badge! Turn Undead as a first level Cleric, advancing levels from there.
  1. Banker’s Beetle: This ravenous scarab will eat up to 1000 coins, and then kill itself pooping out a jewel of roughly equivalent value (1d6: 1. 60%; 2. 75%; 3. 80%; 4. 90%; 5. 100%; 6. 110%).
  2. Skull Maggot: Let this guy crawl around a recent corpse for about ten minutes and then eat it. You gain a vision of the exact circumstances of the deceased’s demise, and make the rest of the party think you are super-gross.
  3. Mimic Polyp: Can take on the appearance of a small valuable object for about one Turn. Useful for distracting pursuit.
  4. Boss Gnat: Summon a swarm of tiny insects with can be directed at a single target. They do no damage, but are very annoying (Target at -4 to hit for one round, then -3, -2, and -1 for one round each).
  5. Gill Bug: Wear this bug over your nose to breathe normally in noxious environments for 1d4 Turns.
  6. Armadiiliidae: Roll this black-skinned pill bug up and bowl it at the nearest locked door. As Knock spell.
  7. Ghoul Louse: Can be thrown. Causes paralysis in humanoid target for 2d4 Turns. Save vs. Paralysis.
  8. Umbra Moth: This fireproof moth will do its best to extinguish any lights in the vicinity.
  9. Manna Locust: Nutritious and delicious, one manna locust will serve as rations for three. They’re highly perishable, however, so you can’t keep your leftovers.
  10. Homing Drone: If you rub a substance (silver, gold, potable water, etc.) against this insect’s belly, it will detect and seek out the nearest large quantity of it. It plods along at about half normal human walking speed, keeping a very steady pace. It will not notice if you are delayed by, say, a wandering monster encounter.
  11. Thaumaparasitiforme: Given 1d6 Turns, this tick-like parasite will eat the enchantment or curse off one magic item.
  12. Clavate Morsel: Eat this bug and a pair of antennae sprout from your forehead for 1d6 Turns. You can detect secret doors, traps, and invisible, but get easily overwhelmed by the pleasure of your new senses (-2 to initiative). Eventually, the antennae dry up and fall off.
  13. Zombie Ant: Let this insect burrow into the brainmeat of a recently deceased creature, and it will reanimate it for 10 –(HD of dead creature) rounds. It will obey one brief command.
  14. Vampire Flea: When deployed, the flea will attack one creature at random (you can throw it to make it more likely it bites someone in a given vicinity) for 2d6 damage. In 1d6 rounds, it will make its way back to you, whereupon its bite will heal you up the amount of damage they it caused the target creature.
Go on. Eat it. It'll give you powers. I swear.

I'm playing a Bug Collector in my kid's campaign, and it's a lot of fun. The real function of this post is to spur others to develop more options for the class so that I'll have more stuff to play with.

I don't know if I have the power levels right for these, at all. Mr. K hasn't written any bugs at the 4th or 6th level yet, and he might have very different calibrations in mind.

I actually started writing these bugs in the hopes of generating 4th and 6th-level bugs for the ecosystems already presented (because my Bug Collector is getting up there), but they sorta turned into this instead.

I really like the name "Scroll Weevil," but couldn't think of a magical effect to go with it. They eat scrolls and then... ah... I got nothin'.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Houserule: Parley

This procedure was developed in the wake of reading the social mechanics put forward by +Courtney Campbell in On the Non Player Character. It is not meant as a replacement for the rich, nuanced, and highly-gameable content of that book. And I think what is presented below is mechanically distinct. But I'm not trying to steal anyone's lunch money. If Campbell has any objections, I'll yank this post down, no worries. EDIT: Got the all-clear from Campbell! Read on with a clear conscience.

Upon an Encounter
When PCs encounter NPCs in a dangerous environment, such as the Underworld or Wilderness, the PCs have a number of ways they can respond, including: attack, flee, stealth, or communication. If the PCs choose to communicate, they enter Parley.

There are three broad outcomes possible from Parley:
         1. Combat
         2. Help
         3. Leaving each other alone.

Unless they have a specific mission relevant to encountering a bunch of adventurers, a group of NPCs is unlikely to immediately leap to either attack or help the PCs. They will typically be uncertain, and willing to engage in some degree of social interaction before they make up their minds. This is modeled through a series of Reaction Rolls.

The Initial Reaction Roll
This roll may be modified by circumstances of as much as +/-2. For instance:
The NPCs discover the PCs looting their holy site (-2);
The PCs have weapons drawn and appear aggressive (-1);
The PCs have moderately greater numbers than the NPCs (+1)
The PCs have had amicable dealings with these NPCs before (+2).

This roll is not modified by Charisma or any other character stat.

This initial roll determines:
         1. Basic attitude of the NPCs.
         2. How long the NPCs are willing to spend in the PCs’ company (Number of Parley Turns before NPCs disengage).
         3. How receptive the NPCs are to what the PCs have to say (Difficulty of CHA check before next Reaction Roll).

2d6     Reaction
2         Attack!
           No opportunity for Parley.
3-5      Undecided: Unfriendly, ready to attack.
           Parley Turns: 1
           5d6 CHA check.
6-8      Undecided: Neutral.
           Parley Turns: 2
           4d6 CHA check.
9-11    Undecided: Positive, will listen to offers.
           Parley Turns: 3
           3d6 CHA check.
12       Helpful!
           NPCs will actively help the PCs until they fail a Morale check or until their own goals take them elsewhere.

Parley Turns
Each Turn dedicated to Parley allows for a new Reaction Roll. These give the PCs an opportunity to push the NPCs towards Helpful, and to risk them choosing to Attack.

If the NPCs are still undecided at the end of the number of Parley Turns determined in the Initial Reaction Roll, then they will withdraw, going their separate way.

CHA Checks
The PCs may attempt to impress, intimidate, ingratiate, or otherwise influence the NPCs. At the end of the turn, a single PC from the party should roll a CHA check, rolling under the prescribed number of d6’s.
A successful CHA check allows for a new, advantaged Reaction Roll.
An unsuccessful one forces a new, disadvantaged Reaction Roll.

CHA Check Modifiers
The PCs should describe their behavior towards the NPCs, and the GM may assign modifiers of +/- 1 or 2 as a result. Sometimes the same behaviors will produce different modifiers, based on the psychology of the NPCs. F'rinstance:
A fearsome display of combat skills or magic (+/-1)
Sharing drink with the NPCs (+1)
Providing aid to wounded NPCs (+2)
Groveling (+1 or -2)
Insults (-1)

A successful WIS check from anyone in the PC Party can read the NPCs and gain insight into how to get the best reaction out of them. +1

A successful INT check may provide useful facts about the culture or species of the NPCs. +1

Failed WIS or INT checks provide equivalent penalties. The GM should ask the player to make up some horrible advice to pass on to the character attempting the CHA check.

Subsequent Reaction Rolls
If the Reaction Roll is advantaged, roll 3d6 and keep the highest two.
If the Reaction Roll is disadvantaged, roll 3d6 (or even 4d6 is the GM feels it is warranted) and keep the lowest two.
2d6      Reaction
2         Attack!
3-5      Undecided: Unfriendly.
           5d6 CHA check.
6-8      Undecided: Neutral.
           4d6 CHA check.
9-11    Undecided: Friendly.
           3d6 CHA check.
12       Helpful!

A Parley Turn takes as much time as an Exploration Turn (about ten minutes). Continue checking for Wandering Monsters!

If the NPCs disengage with the PCs, and the PCs pursue them, Parley can begin again. However, instead of rolling the Initial Reaction Roll, the NPCs automatically begin with a reaction one step more hostile than their previous Reaction Roll.

I think this should work for unintelligent monsters and animals as well a intelligent ones. You just don’t have as many opportunities to affect the next reaction roll. Pretty much food. Or if you have a character with a special proclivity for animals, such as a Ranger, Druid, or Bug Collector, that might be good for some sort of bonus.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Scaffolds & Dragons: Distances and Encounter Awareness

I don't use miniatures, and rarely even use maps, so I don't have much use for measuring distance in feet or inches or what-have-you. Here are the descriptive units of distance I do use instead:

1. Touch/Grapple
        Combat: only small weapons are effective (dagger, fists, very small pistol)
        Communication: whispers
2. Melee
        Combat: standard hand-to-hand distance
        Communication: low-talking
3. Near/Reach
        Combat: long weapons (spears, pole arms, whips)
        Communication: normal speech
4. Thrown
        Combat: ranged weapons are effective; objects can be thrown (rocks, daggers, axes)
        Communication: raised speech
5. Short-range
        Combat: small bow, pistols, sling
        Communication: shouting
6. Long-range
        Combat: long bows, crossbows
        Communication: loud yelling heard indistinctly.
7. Very Long-range
        Combat: siege weapons, sniper rifles
        Communication: horns and drums
8. Far-Away.
        Only advanced technology or magic can have an affect over this distance.

Encounter Awareness
This replaces rolling separately for surprise and encounter distance, and is totally derived from Goblin Punch.

2d6 for each side for each side to see when they potentially become aware of the other. The side with the higher roll has a chance to surprise-attack the other from the indicated distance.

Damned rabbit muggings.
Awareness in the Underworld and Cities
2d6 for each side
2        Touch/Grapple
3-5     Melee
6-8     Thrown
9-10   Short-range
11      Long-range
12      Very Long-range

Awareness in the Wilderness and Wide-Open Spaces
2d6 for each side
2         Touch/Grapple
3-4      Melee
5-6      Thrown
7-8      Short-range
9-10    Long-range
11-12  Very Long-range

If either side is being actively stealthy, the roll to detect them is at -2. You cannot be stealthy in plate armor or while carrying torches in the dark.

There's no need for a DEX check to be stealthy, in this instance. You're just trying to not draw attention to yourself. Save the DEX check for trying to sneak past someone actively on the look-out for you.